Lawmakers work to protect Colorado’s aging population | CraigDailyPress.com

Lawmakers work to protect Colorado’s aging population

Noelle Leavitt Riley

Several bills are circulating the state Capitol to help protect Colorado's aging population.

Several bills are circulating the state Capitol to protect and boost the quality of life for Colorado's elderly population, and lawmakers seem keenly aware of how the proposed laws could positively affect senior citizens.

House Bill 1018 strengthens an elder abuse law that was enacted two years ago by adding an extra layer of protection for those who might be wrongly treated by caregivers.

"It works to cut down on elder abuse, and it does that by expanding the type of protection that's reported," said Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheatridge, who is the sole sponsor of the bill.

Essentially, the bill adds the type of person or persons who can report abuse, including victim advocates, law enforcement and specialized transportation, meaning senior citizen buses for instance.

Danielson introduced the bill in December and is currently working to find a Senate sponsor. It's a nonpartisan bill that she hopes will continue to gain momentum in the legislature.

"Most people are in favor of cutting down on elder abuse," she noted.

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It's Danielson's first term as a state representative, and she was passionate about the bill because of promises she made to her constituents.

"I made a commitment to my district to really fight for senior citizens, and I feel really strongly that older Coloradans can retire safely the way they want," she said. "I (will) do everything I can to be sure the older Coloradans can live at home as long as they want."

Other advocates of the bill include the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the state's senior resource center and Colorado AARP.

"Our population in Colorado is dramatically changing," said Kelli Fritts, associate state director of advocacy for Colorado AARP. "By 2030, there will be one in four people over the age of 60. What does that mean to housing? What does that mean to the tax base? We're trying to get the state to start thinking about it."

Another priority bill for AARP and Danielson is HB 1242, which aims to cut down on the number of elders who are readmitted to the hospital following release.

Specifically, the bill requires that hospitals give each patient or patient's legal guardian the opportunity to allow a caregiver to be at the hospital when a patient is admitted and discharged so that the caregiver understands the doctor's discharge orders.

The goal is to make caregivers aware of treatment plans designing to preserve health or to help in the recovery from a given ailment. That way, the caregiver knows the exact orders in the event that a patient forgets what the doctor said.

"It's to make sure they have the tools to do what they need to do so that they don't have to be readmitted to the hospital," Fritts said.

Another elder bill is HB 1033, which has been nicknamed the "silver tsunami" bill.

"This bill is designed to prepare the state for the aging population," Danielson said.

The bill, introduced on Jan. 7, specifically "creates a strategic planning group to study issues related to the increasing number of Coloradans age 50 and older. The group will consist of 20 voting members to be appointed by the governor by August 1, 2015, and the bill specifies the required composition of the group members. Members will be appointed for two years with no defined term limit," according to the bill's text.

The state is not ready for the baby boomers who are entering the senior citizen bracket who are about to saturate Colorado, Danielson said.

"We're not prepared for the population aging as it is," she said.

Contact Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@craigdailypress.com.

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